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Reposted from Hollowdweller by Keith930

Having lived all my life here we've pretty much come to accept that all regulatory agencies here to serve industry.  If you want any help you pretty much HAVE to hope the feds will come in and generally they are too short handed to do  anything.

Recently though the ire generated by the coal companies against the EPA and their public relations campaign against it have even shifted the publics perception of the federal gov't as somebody who helps.

I'm not sure how old people are but one of the first things they went after during the Reagan years was OSHA, but now it seems like most of our agencies state and federal are reactive to tragedies instead of preemptive.

When you look at the chemical spill some obvious questions emerge:

If WV American water has taken over such a large portion  of the water market here why were they allowed to draw water from only one area?? That river has numerous coal and chemical plants along it?

They basically had to develop testing for this chemical yet shouldn't the water company be testing the public water on a regular basis for all chemicals that plants hold in large quantities that could potentially impact their water?? I mean this chemical was detected due to it's odor, but what about a more deadly but undetectable spill??

Freedom industries was using an ancient facility and when they bought it they knew it had problems. Shouldn't they have had to correct the problems BEFORE they used the facility??

Basically what we have come to here is the same thing as the financial crisis.  Years of neglect of the environmental safety net and deregulation have finally broadly impacted an area.

Stuff like this has happened a lot, especially in the coalfields but since it affects individuals only a few have been watching.

WV Gazette has a good article on this and when I read it I sort of see it as the effect of years of deregulation and focus of industry over the public:

Those same agencies and public officials, though, have said they know little about the chemical involved. They're all acting a bit surprised that this mystery substance was being stockpiled so close to a crucial water intake, and shocked that something like this could have happened.

Water company officials are equally puzzled. For example, West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre told reporters on Friday that his company didn't know much about the chemical's possible dangers, wasn't aware of an effective treatment process, and wasn't even sure exactly how much 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol is too much.

This despite being made aware the facility was there
OSHA inspectors started to examine the facility in November 2009 as part of a program of special emphasis looking at accidents that prompted amputations, records show. But they discovered that Freedom Industries was in the wrong industry classification for that program, and they never did the inspection, said OSHA spokeswoman Lenore Uddyback-Fortson.
But agency officials concede that their discovery of the leak marked the first time DEP inspectors had been at the site in more than 20 years.

Initially, the DEP reported that it had no permits for the operation, and that Freedom Industries did not require any permits. The DEP said the company did not manufacture any products, that the operation was "chiefly a storage facility" with "no emissions" and that "the materials it stores are not considered hazardous."

Further review by DEP officials identified an industrial stormwater permit held by the company, but agency spokesman Tom Aluise said that the DEP had not inspected the site since 1991,

Ok so if you want to open a restaurant you have to have a permit. The Health Dept has to OK that permit and then you have to be inspected before you open.

Then restaurants are inspected on a regular basis to make sure they are in compliance.

Yet something that could potentially affect thousands hasn't been checked out since 1991??  

Hundreds of thousands without water. Businesses losing revenue. I hope there's a call for action and we don't just go back to status quo but I'm not hopeful.

Couple new things below

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Reposted from JR by Keith930

MAJOR UPDATE: THE DO NOT USE WARNING HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO ADDITIONAL COUNTIES: The warning now applies to all WV American Water customers in Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties.

I just got the news from Kanawha County Delegate Meshea Poore:
Weatherdude is also following it on his Facebook feed:
If you live in any of those five counties, officials are warning that the water is only safe for flushing the toilet and putting out fires (their words).

From the Charleston Daily Mail:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water customers in a five-county area are being advised not to drink, cook with, bathe in or boil their water after the company's water supply was contaminated by a chemical leak early Thursday.

The warning applied to Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson and Lincoln counties.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin swiftly called a state of emergency.

Water customers were receiving automated calls with the warning.  

The only safe use for the company's water is to flush down a toilet or put out a fire, Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety announced on Twitter Thursday evening.


The water situation arose following a chemical leak Thursday morning at Freedom Industries.

A strong licorice smell that settled over the Kanawha Valley on Thursday morning was determined to be a product from the company's headquarters, located on Barlow Drive just outside of Charleston, said C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County Deputy Emergency Manager.

...The leaked product is 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation.

An initial statement from Freedom Industries apparently claimed no health risk to the public, though 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol is a known skin and respiratory irritant.

More to come...

Disclaimer: I am a fundraising consultant for Meshea Poore's congressional campaign in WV-02

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Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

West Virginia is one of those states that doesn't get much attention here on DailyKos, and when it does, it's almost always in a poor light.  I thought it would be nice to do something about that.

You see, there's more to West Virginia than coal trains, mountaintop mining, Joe Manchin or Bible Belt poor folk who vote against their own self interests.  It really is a gorgeous state.  I have driven many a back road through West Virginia, and let me tell you...there are few places in this big old country of ours that can match its beauty.  

Here is the West Virginia I have seen in my travels, in a better light.

Late afternoon light on a hayfield

West Virginia Farmer

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Reposted from Merlin1963 by Keith930

I lost my job back in late October.  The only bit of good news I have received recently is that I do get unemployment, and because of my situation, I actually qualified under the ACA for the Medicaid expansion in KY.  Starting Jan 1st, I will get Medicaid, so I am grateful to Obama and those who pushed for expansion of Medicaid.  Otherwise, I'd have to pay over 500 dollars a month for COBRA.  One thing that I did notice while I was signing up for Medicaid is that the state of Kentucky is doing some due diligence and also signing people up to register to vote.

It was the registering people to vote that I wanted to bring to everyone's attention.  

I will be the first to complain about the moribund Democratic Party in KY.  I could go on and on about what is wrong with the state Democratic Party.  However, Governor Beshear has done a good job with the health insurance exchange, and they do ask while you are online if you are registered to vote.

Now, I have been registered to vote for what seems like a century or more, so I did check the box that I was already registered.  This is probably a small bug with the website, but the state of Kentucky went ahead and sent me out a form asking again do I want to sign up to vote with the other paperwork to verify that I signed up for health insurance.  Possibly a bug or redundancy in the system, but I'm glad that the state does that.

What does surprise me is that the Republicans are not screaming bloody murder about this aspect of the ACA in KY.  I suppose the Republicans are too busy spreading the rumor that the dread Obamacare enforces those who sign up to have a chip implanted in their arms to scream about voter registration efforts.  Bigotry and scare tactics seem to be the MO of Kentucky Republicans with regards to the ACA.

But I don't know how many of those signing up under the ACA are unregistered voters.  All I do know is that there were 640.000 Kentuckians without health insurance before the exchange was established.  As of tomorrow, approximately 100,000 Kentuckians will have signed up for health insurance.  Even the state though does not believe that all the uninsured will sign up in the first six months, but if the trend continues, probably over 350,000 will be signed up by the end of March 2014.

Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

Some of you...the cognoscenti in Ohio and perhaps even Pittsburgh, probably knew just from the title of this diary what the subject is.  That's right...this is an homage to a humble regional sandwich that you don't much encounter outside of the Midwest.  The fried bologna sandwich.  Sometimes referred to as a redneck steak sandwich, there are other nicknames that that I won't go into, as they quickly become offensive.  There's nothing offensive about the sandwich, however, as long as you get past its nutritional qualities and simply bite into one.

Perhaps the most famous bologna sandwich spot of all (and this Buckeye is admittedly biased) can be found 40 miles north of Columbus at a rather unpromising looking tavern in Waldo, Ohio, named the G&R Tavern.  Bikers are welcome.  In fact, you'd be surprised by how many people go out of their way just to visit this Mecca of road food.

The G & R Tavern Waldo, OH

I grew up eating fried bologna sandwiches, and have the cholesterol numbers to prove it.  (pronounce it baloney, by the way, or mark yourself immediately as either a West Coast or East Coast poseur)

Join me below the mustard stain for the mouth watering details.


Ever had a fried bologna sandwich before?

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Reposted from murrayewv by Keith930 Editor's Note: there's some really nice music here. Hope you enjoy it. -- Keith930

So I had a little insomnia tonight.  Woke up at 2:10 AM EST.  Visited the Kos, played a little Candy crush Saga, read the editorials in the New York Times and listened to some Mountain Stage.  I saw on a news feed the Grammy's were announced and went over to the LA Times to read the list of nominees.  I skimmed through the bigger named artists, and listened to some songs I hadn't heard and then scrolled down to the Americana and Roots section.  These are the artists I go to hear on Mountain Stage, a live performance NPR radio show I attend very often (10 or 12 times a year!)  I thought I would see how many artists I had heard in person, and was pleased to see that a number of nominees had just been to Mountain Stage and put on a great performance.  

Follow me below the orange squiggle to some great videos.


Grammy nominations:

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Reposted from Community Fundraisers by Ahianne

 photo FBAvatarSketchofTonya_zps2aa87d02.jpg

UPDATE 5 - LAST UPDATE FOR TONIGHT: WE'VE MADE THE $500 MATCH - THAT'S $1,000 IN A MATTER OF HOURS.  I believe we've raised just about $2,000 in actual PayPal donations and money orders committed.  We're nearly halfway to our overall goal on the first day.  Thank you, thank you, everyone!

UPDATE 4: WE HAVE A NEW CHALLENGE - $500 IN MATCHING FUNDS!!!  If we can match that, it turns into $1,000! C'mon, folks: We can do this!

UPDATE 3:  MATCH MET! Anyone else who's planning to donate who wants to issue a challenge for matching funds?

UPDATE 2: WE HAVE MATCHING FUNDS!  As of 3:15PM PDT/6:15PM EDT, donations will be matched up to $250.  If we raise $250 between now and evening's end, that's $500 toward our goal for Tonya! We can do this!

UPDATE: Some folks have suggested sending money orders via the U.S. Postal Service and Western Union, because many check-cashing outlets apparently won't cash personal checks (in addition to the problem of their outrageous fees). Kossack jpmassar tells me that after checking rates, the USPS ones have much lower fees. Kosmail me for Tonya's snail-mail address. If you want to use PayPal, the address is weckworth [at] earthlink [dot] net (Kossack weck is handling it for her). At the end of this section, and at the end of the diary, is information that you need to include in the PayPal message section, or enclose with the money order.

NOTE: We also have a new way to donate, for those who need to do so by check. Kossack Charles CurtisStanley (Kitsap River's husband and my brother) has agreed to take care of bundling for anyone who needs to pay by check. You can make a check payable to him with funds designated for Tonya; he will cash them all and turn them into a USPS money order or wire transfer sent to Tonya so that she only needs to make one stop to access the funds. Kosmail me for the address and Kitsap River's phone number, should you wish to verify it.

Some of you may know Kossack tonyahky. She's been a registered member here for nearly eight full years. She's a member of a number of Daily Kos groups, including the Kentucky Kossacks group, My Old Kentucky Kos, and regional group Appalachian Journal.  In 2011, she began a diary series on "practical survivalism and sustainable living," including tips from earlier generations and a terrific multi-part series on how to save money by canning your own fruits and vegetables, including step-by-step instructions and safety tips for newbies.

She's also written two diaries for the Kosability series, about the challenges she and her daughter face every day dealing with a profound case of autism, pieces that sprang out of her earlier diary recounting her daughter coming home from school with what appeared to be a bruise from physical restraints.

But she hasn't so much as posted a comment since April Fool's Day.

There's a reason for that.

Tonya's been a Facebook friend for a while now; I don't even recall how long. I'm ashamed to say that while it occurred to me that I hadn't seen her here much lately, I didn't follow up to ask whether she was okay.

That changed two weeks ago — when, entirely by accident, I happened to see her status update in my Facebook feed.

She had mentioned having just gotten bad news from the doctor: a dangerous uterine fibroid situation in need of invasive surgery very soon. An alarm bell went off in my brain, and as I continued to read, sure enough: She can get the surgery, but doing so creates a huge — seemingly insurmountable — problem for her.

She is the once-again-single mother of four children. The oldest starts college (locally) in five weeks. The others go back to school about the same time. And the second child, aged 16, has severe autism and requires a personal attendant virtually around the clock.

A personal attendant able to help physically with some very heavy, labor-intensive tasks.

After her surgery, Tonya will be bedridden for a while, and severely restricted in her physical activities for a minimum of six weeks. It's not merely that she will be unable to lift anything or engage in any labor-intensive activities: She will not be able to drive; to lift or carry virtually anything, including a purse; or to perform activities that involve stretching, bending, or twisting, such as getting a dish out of a kitchen cabinet, for several weeks.

And there is no state aid available in Rand Paul's Kentucky for a single mother of four children, without health insurance and unable to work for months from sheer pain, to provide an after-school aide for her severely disabled daughter.

Tonya's been through more ordeals already than any one person should have to endure. A much greater physical ordeal awaits her — and make no mistake, this is not elective surgery. This has reached a point where it's a matter of survival. But how is she supposed to undergo surgery that will mostly incapacitate her for at least six weeks without the ability to ensure that her daughter (and her other children) can also survive it?

 photo Screenshot2013-07-20at110721PM_zpsacfb3612.png Over the jump, get the full background, and then find out how you can help. If you want to skip the lengthy details and get right to the donation part, you can do so in the paragraph immediately below.

Please note: Tonya's health problems have destroyed her finances; she no longer has a bank account (details are below). One Kossack, weck, has stepped up to do the physical collection of funds for her via PayPal. When the donations are complete, week will turn the funds into a wire transfer and send it to her via Western Union. We currently need someone trustworthy who has the ability to do the same for those who can only contribute via personal check or money order. If we cannot find anyone to do this, her only option will be to collectt individual checks and money orders and take the to her local check-cashing place, which means that she will lose a significant percentage to fees. Kossack Charles CurtisStanley (Kitsap River's husband and my brother) has agreed to take care of bundling for anyone who needs to pay by check. You can make a check payable to him with funds designated for Tonya; he will cash them all and turn them into a USPS money order or wire transfer sent to Tonya so that she only needs to make one stop to access the funds. Kosmail me for the address and Kitsap River's phone number, should you wish to verify it. You can donate via PayPal here: weckworth [at] earthlink [dot] net.  Even if you don't normally do PayPal, please consider making an exception for this situation; the good you will do will vastly outweigh the bad (and you don't need a PayPal account of your own to send money that way). If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to contribute that way, Kosmail me for her address for sending a check or money order.

PLEASE NOTE: However you choose to donate, please include a notation on the PayPal entry form or an enclosure with the check/money order to the following effect:

This is a charitable donation for the medical care of the family of Tonya Harris.

This is essential; under her state's framework, she can accept charitable donations for medical expenses without it affecting her ability to get the surgery, but she must be able to provide some form of receipt to that effect for each donation.

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Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

This diary was prompted by the diary "New Day", posted this morning by smileycreek, which asked what "home remedies" you grew up with.  It made me think of chiggers.  What, you may well ask, are chiggers?  Well, for you Millennials out there, they are tiny mites.  You can be forgiven if you are unfamiliar with them, because you have to actually go outside to encounter them.  Not just outside, but usually you have to walk through some woods, or a field with tall grass...think meadow.  You will never encounter chiggers at the mall, or in a theater, at an Occupy Whatever event, or while blogging on your iPad at Starbucks.

They are country critters.

Now that I've let that little jab at my younger brethren loose, let me address my generational peers...the Boomers.  If you grew up in a rural area where you actually encountered chiggers, they do not lay eggs under your skin.  There is no arachnid alien gestating under that welt on your thigh.  Chiggers bite, but they don't deposit any tiny "chiggerlings" under your skin.

Do the bites itch?  They sure do.  Will nail polish (preferably clear) applied over the top of the welt help?  No it won't.  But that was the "home remedy" I grew up with whenever I came home from a morning of fishing with my grandfather and woke up the next morning with chigger welts around my ankles, knees or, ahem, around the elastic baricades of the "Whitey Tighties" that I routinely wore as a pre-teen.

A chigger bite forms a welt quite similar to a mosquito bite...but it itches much more.

My dear Grandmother, who hailed from Eastern Kentucky, had a readily available and easy remedy:  "paint the bump with nail polish, because the chigger that "bit" you actually deposited an egg under your skin...and the swelling and itching is caused by the gestation of that egg."  The reasoning, I'm guessing, was that coating the bump with nail polish would seal of oxygen to the developing little "chiggerling" growing under your skin.

Like most placebos...the nail polish treatment always seemed to work.

Except for the fact that it made no sense.  Join me below for everything you absolutely never wanted to know about chiggers.  

You know you want to.....


Have you ever had chigger bites?

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Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

No matter where you live, you have seen one.  And I'm betting when you did, you allowed your gaze to linger for awhile.  If you are a camera bug, you may even have pulled over while driving down some road, and shot a picture or two.  Sometimes it is a majestic, old oak tree in the middle of a farmer's field...surrounded by acres of plowed field.  Why did they leave just that one tree?  Surely there must have been many others at some time.

A forest is lush.  Dense.  But while a forest has its own charms, it can sometimes seem impenetrable. Uninviting, even.  A lone tree holds a completely different kind of allure.  It is somehow mysterious.  It's almost magnetic, especially when the cleared land around it is expansive.  You ask yourself how that one tree, and only that tree, managed to escape the axe and survive.  You sometimes may even feel compelled to walk across the field to look at it from a closer perspective.  Stand in its shade.  It provokes contemplation.  The trees in a stand of woods lose their individuality and become almost indistinguishable from one another, at least until fall.  But a lonesome tree?  It calls out to you.  "Look at me.  I'm still here!"

Lone Tree

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 05:14 AM PST

Down & Out in West Virginia

by Virally Suppressed

Reposted from Virally Suppressed by Ahianne

“But you can't start. Only a baby can start. You and me - why, we're all that's been. The anger of a moment, the thousand pictures, that's us. This land, this red land, is us; and the flood years and the dust years and the drought years are us. We can't start again” - John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

There is danger in the American Dream, for dreams are the product of sleep and life is lived by the waking. A dream never paid off a mortgage or put food in a child's mouth; dreams have never kept a steel mill from shutting down or stopped an employer from slashing an employee's benefits. The American Dream is predicated on the notion that there is a direct relationship between effort and outcome. It tells us that womb we sprang out of and the home we grew up in need not have any bearing on the progress we will make. Our politicians and media outlets shower us with stories of coal miner's daughters and gangbanger's sons who defied the odds and willed themselves to success and happiness through sheer grit and determination. But odds are there for a reason and they don't have a damn thing to do with you. The narrative that has been spoon fed to us since we were yea high is one that showcases our ability to face adversity with the unspoken prerequisite that we must triumphantly overcome that adversity in order for our story to be told. This nation is filled with millions upon millions of people who run themselves ragged 'til they're nothing more than a mess of bone spurs and heartaches who spent their whole lives working to keep themselves from falling over.

Now, I'm not saying that some folks are just doomed to live a life of hardship because poverty was given to them as a birthright. I believe in self-determination and the power of individual action as much as the next guy, provided that next guy isn't Joel Osteen or the great-grandson of Horatio Alger. It's just that where you were born is often more instrumental in shaping the trajectory of your life than anything you did subsequently. For example, state-by-state tabulations of mortality rates and lifespan tell us that someone born in the deep south1 will, on average, live 3 years less someone born in the rest of the US. Such a stat doesn't suggest that a random child born in Hattiesburg or Mobile will die 3 years before a child born in Seattle or Pittsburgh. All it means is that the chances of that child living beyond a certain age are lessened based on the region of its birth. It's kind of like when you go to a golf course and they have a set of amateur tees staked out 30 yards in front of the regular ones. If you have two golfers of equal ability play a hole together with one using the amateur tees and the other using regular ones, there's no sure bet as to who will win. But, if you have those same two golfers play the hole that way 1,000 times, it's all but inevitable that the one shooting from the amateur tees will win the majority of the time. Our country's socioeconomic structure operates under similar principles, only it cranks the inequality quotient up to the point that some folks begin life 15 feet from the cup while others are forced to tee off from the parking lot.

If you drive through the Appalachian Mountains on I-70, through the upper crust of West Virginia and southwest corner of Pennsylvania, you'll notice that a hefty chunk of the media around you, whether its billboards or radio ads or bumper stickers, is really concerned with coal. There are billboards paid for by anti-Obama Super PACs saying that the President is anti-coal and has labeled Appalachia a “No Jobs Zone”, while the programming on the local NPR affiliate is sponsored by some company advocating for the use of clean coal technology, whatever the hell that is, and to an outsider it's just bizarre. With the global temperature beginning to spike and Greenland turning into a giant slushie, one would think it would be poor form to be openly promoting the use of something so ecologically damaging, but the one doing that kind of thinking would most likely not be a West Virginian.

Welch, VA resident Ed Shepard waiting in the gas station he’s owned for 62 years. Photo courtesy of Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post

Virtually since the state's founding 150 years ago, the life blood of West Virginia has centered in and around its abundance of natural resources, primarily its rich deposits of bituminous coal. Of course, it is equally true that the vast majority of West Virginians never reaped the benefits of all this black gold. Outside of American Indian and African-American populations, it is hard to think of a ethnic or regional group that has been more exploited throughout the course of our nation's history than the residents of Appalachia. Miners in the hills of West Virginia were paid next-to-nothing to risk their lives day-in-and-day-out, hauling anthracite out of mines so shoddily constructed that whenever a man went in, he couldn't be sure if he was ever getting out again. Especially in the southern part of the state, immigrant and local labor was exploited by businesses that turned mining into the Appalachian version of sharecropping, forcing laborers to lease their tools from the company while living in towns built and run by that same company. Thanks to the callous disregard for human life shown by these early titans of American industry, West Virginia holds the dubious distinction of being the state responsible for the creation of the US Bureau of Mines after an underground explosion at a mine in Minongah, West Virginia took the lives of 362 men.

And yet, for all of its flaws, coal was what bound the state together and, in some areas, what gave them purpose. One such area is McDowell County, a small southerly area situated square in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Before coal mining came to the area, it was about as rural as rural got, with a population of around 3,000 people in 1880 and their recently declared county seat of Welch consisting of only 3 houses and a general store. However, after the coal boom took hold around the turn of the century, McDowell County's population skyrocketed, increasing to just over 90,000 in 50 years time. By 1950, McDowell County was one of the 3 most populous counties in the state as well as one of the wealthiest. That was before the coal bubble burst and jobs started vanishing almost as quickly as they had appeared. Much of the younger generation saw the writing on the wall and set off elsewhere as soon as they got the chance, determined to avoid the poverty that was becoming as ubiquitous in McDowell County as it was debilitating. When the floor finally fell out from the under the state and coal mining employment was cut in half during the 1980s, McDowell took a disproportionate amount of the damage because they were pretty much a one-trick pony. They did coal and they did it well, and when the coal jobs left there wasn't anything to replace them with.

Today, there are only about 22,000 people living in McDowell County and most of them are doing well if they can tell you that they're just getting by. 36 percent of county residents were living below the poverty line, including nearly half of all children under the age of 18.2 Income inequality isn't really a problem in McDowell County because both their median income ($20,695) and their mean income ($31,854) were well under half of the national average. In fact, there are more people in McDowell County making less than $10,000 a year than there are making over $50,000. Put simply, they are poor and they are hurting. They've been poor and hurting for a long time now, but no one ever hears their story because very few people know they're even there. Lodged deep in the belly of a state that is already the 2nd poorest in the nation, there is only one US highway, US Route 52, running through the hollows and hills of McDowell County, which makes it almost as inaccessible as it is impoverished.

There is very little chance I would have ever heard of McDowell County if it weren't for a remarkable documentary film project called Hollow, which I serendipitously stumbled upon this past week. The project, directed and produced by documentarian Elaine McMillion, is an interactive media experience that looks at McDowell County, West Virginia through the prism of the people that live there. 20 of the 50 documentary vignettes that make up the Hollow project will be filmed by residents of McDowell County in an effort to let the people whose stories are being told guide the narrative that is ultimately the product of their experience. Now as anyone who has been following Virally Suppressed since we started last Spring knows from my repeated gushing over Lisa Biagiotti's phenomenal documentary deepsouth, I try to spread the gospel of projects that I think are innovative, captivating and relevant to the challenges of the world we live in. I will try to do the same thing for Hollow, which should have an interactive web release in May of this year. Until then, here is the trailer for a film project that I hope will be as powerful as it is unique:

"I can't make old friends" from Elaine McMillion on Vimeo.


1The deep south is defined as: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.


Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

It's not uncommon these days, if you live in a city, to see vacant houses.  The foreclosure crisis has touched so many urban properties, depending upon what city, and what neighborhood, you live in.  I can walk 9 blocks to my local Trader Joes and pass by three such homes.  Two of them have plywood in the windows.  The other one, I'm guessing, soon will.  I pass by them and wonder...who lived there?  What happened?

But mostly they don't hold much allure for me.  They are, more than anything, sores upon the neighborhood at large.  A missing tooth in what might otherwise be a bright smile.  A blemish of sorts.

But before the Great Recession, when such houses were rare...and going back much further to my younger years, I must confess that such houses, especially in the country, always exerted a strange tug at my consciousness.  They caught both my attention and my imagination.  There have been many occasions where I have seen an abandoned house over the course of my life, and it didn't immediately speak to me of sudden misfortune, or some precipitous downturn in the housing market...instead, it seemed to whisper to me.  

I would look at such an empty house, paint fading and chipping, perhaps a gutter coming loose...weeds high...and for some reason I felt a sense of sorrow.  And then, mystery.  Who used to live there?  Why did they leave?  Why didn't the house end up in someone else's hands?  Why is it now empty?  Did something tragic happen there?  What was it like when it was full of life?

Abandoned House

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Reposted from Keith930 by Keith930

Build it up with iron and steel,
Iron and steel, iron and steel,
Build it up with iron and steel,
My fair lady.

Iron and steel will bend and bow,
Bend and bow, bend and bow,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,
My fair lady.

...from the nursery rhyme "London Bridge is Falling Down"

Bridges have always made me a bit nervous.  For me, they have always required a leap of faith.  A leap which begins as you first drive onto one and doesn't end until you reach the other side.  Many are quite pleasant to look at, but I don't enjoy driving across them.  In fact, I must confess that I almost always unbuckle my seat belt when I do drive across one.  While they don't give me terrors, there is a word for this particular fear:  gephyrophobia.

On December 14 of this past year, when a disturbed young man opened fire in a school in Newtown, Connecticutt, killing 26 people, the tragedy was only compounded by the timing...just 2 weeks before Christmas.  Something nagged at the back of my mind as the story unfolded.  A sense of deja vu.  It took awhile to recall what was trying to bubble up to the surface, but finally it did.  It was almost 45 years to the day that an even more tragic event occurred, on December 15, 1967.  On that day it wasn't a deranged shooter that was responsible for the horror which unfolded.

It was metal fatigue.  

These days we often use crumbling bridges as a metaphor for the state of our country as a whole.  Neglect.  Lack of diligence.  Lack of investment.  An indifference to the future.  But when a bridge fails...when it suddenly and violently fails, it is no metaphor.  It is a stark reality.  People die, and for those who survive, or who narrowly escape the event, lives are permanently altered.

On December 15, 1967, at around 5:00 PM in the evening, many lives were changed.  An 46 souls were lost.

Leo "Doc" Saunders was a cab driver in Point Pleasant.  Around 4:30 PM that day he got a call to pick up a fare in Gallipolis.  He was crossing the bridge on his way to pick up his fare when he got bogged down in heavy traffic somewhere around the halfway mark.  Traffic was heavy, and it had become stop and go.

Charlene Wood worked at a hair salon in Point Pleasant, where her parents lived, but lived in Gallipolis.  She was 5 months pregnant when the light turned green and she eased her Pontiac out onto the ramp of the WV side of the bridge to go home.  She hadn't gone far until she felt the bridge begin to shudder.  She slammed her car into reverse and hit the gas.  She made it just back to the ramp when her car stalled.

Glenna Mae Taylor was also pregnant, due to the deliver within 3 weeks.  She and her husband, both school teachers, had spent the afternoon shopping in Gallipolis and were on her way home.

Bob and Pat Siler, also of Point Pleasant, had also spent the afternoon on the Ohio side, and were heading home with their two youngest kids.  When they got stuck in the middle of the bridge in the stop and go traffic, they felt the car begin to shudder a bit, and thinking it was their kids rough housing in the back seat, she turned around and scolded them to settle down.  The shuddering stopped...the traffic began to move and as they made it to the other side they passed two cars of neighbors heading onto the bridge in the opposite direction.  They honked their horn and waved at the Wedges and the Byuses as they passed them by.  The Silers were safely off the bridge when it began to shake again.

Another young couple, Howard and Margaret Boggs, were on their way home after buying Christmas presents for their 17 month old baby, who they had taken along with them.  They, too, had come to a stop when Margaret, just 18 and at the wheel, felt the car begin to shake.  She looked at her husband and said "What would we do if this thing were to break up?"

Those were the last words she ever spoke, her husband later recalled, after he was pulled from the water and taken to the hospital.

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